I wanted Butler’s men’s basketball team to win last night’s national championship as badly as I’ve ever wanted a team that I actually follow to win a championship. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Regardless of the outcome, last night’s game is viewed as an anomaly because of the academic success of players on both teams (as the announcers pointed out, each year there are 15 academic all-Americans and two of them play for Butler). Tenured Radical has some interesting thoughts on the false binary relationship between athletics and academics:
Like so many things about university life, these tradeoffs are cynical and unnecessary: it is that old problem of assuming that things are as they seem. We talk about the “culture” of big time sports, as if we were anthropologists in The Land That Time Forgot, rather than looking at how we might change programs where the athletes are not doing college level work and are spending their spare time wreaking havoc on other students. Furthermore, if you look at schools that have a low graduation rate for their big budget teams, you often see overall low graduation rates, and students not able to get into the classes they need to attain the BA in four years. I remember a few years back when it was revealed that a Big Southern Football Power had a graduation rate of well under 10% for its national championship football team, but guess what? The university as a whole was under 40% for a BA in six years. And the team has not repeated this performance either, as its star players drifted off campus, mostly to the various forms of unemployment you are vulnerable to without an education.